The Overworld: Does it Belong in the Past?

SamuelKeller

Villager
Member
Joined
Oct 15, 2014
Messages
8
Reaction score
0
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
WARNING: The following discussion will almost certainly contain opinions, especially ones that may differ from your own. If you encounter such an opinion, proper procedure dictates a calm response to prevent an S-Class Moronic Arrogant Dumbie (or MAD) event.


I played a lot of old RPG's in my childhood (which probably explains my current obsession with making them), and one aspect I noticed was slowly weaned out of the industry was the "overworld" mechanic. Basically, an overworld was a non-scaled world map that the characters would walk to different places. The closest modern comparison I can think of is Mass Effect, but for the most part it disappeared as open-world maps became more popular (would Skyrim be Skyrim if you couldn't explore every stupid cave?).


My question is: Are overworld maps something we got rid of for good reason? My nostalgic logic says it's not that terrible of a thing and I could put it into my game (already a nostalgic trip into the past), but as it's a sandbox-stylized RPG with the main driving force being the player's choices, it seems ill-fitting. Thoughts?
 

Andar

Veteran
Veteran
Joined
Mar 5, 2013
Messages
30,911
Reaction score
7,449
First Language
German
Primarily Uses
RMMV
It depends of what kind of game experience you want to give - it will get boring if you continually have to walk big maps for nothing new in them.


The overworld map is one way to allow for fast travel -  a portal list is another, and linear levels without the need to go back to earlier points are still a third way to handle that problem. Which one do you prefer for your game is up to you.
 

taarna23

Marshmallow Princess
Global Mod
Joined
Jul 20, 2012
Messages
2,387
Reaction score
4,871
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMMZ
I think it depends entirely on the game. With some styles of RPG, an overworld is entirely unnecessary - you've explored your way from one area to the next, you've seen what's there and can opt to go wander through it again if you wish, but oftentimes some manner of teleportation or other quick travel is provided. Other times, it benefits the story to have an overworld. Try to imagine one of the older Final Fantasy games without an overworld map - the story would jarringly jump all over the world.


To overworld or not to overworld? That question is answered with how your story is told.
 

Haydeos

The Dragon
Veteran
Joined
Apr 6, 2014
Messages
513
Reaction score
969
First Language
English
An overworld can easily be replaced by a map with a list of locations to go, imo. depends if you want to slog the player down with random encounters on it or not.
 

Labyrinthine

Artist/ Developer
Veteran
Joined
Jun 23, 2014
Messages
454
Reaction score
403
First Language
Finnish
Primarily Uses
I prefer overworlds generally since they tend to create an illusion of a larger game world. Of course, I don't think that every game would require an overworld. I think there are many games where it doesn't really contribute to anything meaningful, but it's there just because it's common in RPG:s. 


Overworld(s) are in a very big role in my current project. Instead of merely means to travel between locations, the overworlds in the game are actually huge labyrinths, where the player is encouraged to discover varying methods of progression and secrets. Their thematic role is also important for the entire idea of the game.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

NPC

Auteurist in this world
Veteran
Joined
Jan 6, 2013
Messages
1,313
Reaction score
197
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMVXA
In my opinion: Yes. 


It made sense that overworlds exist in games with less memory like Final Fantasy or Golden Sun, which both wanted to portray a large world with a limited amount of space, but that simply isn't the case anymore!


I press developers to try and search for other ways of portraying a large world, like some of the options Andar listed. 


That said, I'm willing to set a blind eye for Quick Travel Overworlds, like when you fly an airship in old school Final Fantasys or cross a large ocean. I'd prefer something like Wind Waker for all oceans but that is just an unreasonable request! 


Alternatively you could set a course in your ship/airship and just have the chance to do stuff onboard/watch a cutscene. I'm still in favour of getting rid of overworlds!
 
Last edited by a moderator:

DragonVine

May or May Not be Batman
Veteran
Joined
Jun 17, 2014
Messages
344
Reaction score
385
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
It really depends on the type of game you are making. For example, I'm have a plan in place for a game that will use one, and another one set in the same world that doesn't. It really depends on what you are trying to do.


I don't think overworlds are a thing of the past, though you do see them far less now.


Simply said, if done right, an overworld can be a great addition to a game. If done wrong, then it becomes a burden that drags it down. The simple mechanic of an overworld is less of a problem than the implementation of it. Is it old? Yes. Does that mean it's bad or shouldn't be done? No.
 

KillerGin

Freddie
Veteran
Joined
Dec 18, 2015
Messages
419
Reaction score
281
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
N/A
It all depends on the game. Some games need it and don't have it and some have it and don't need it. 


My game has a world map. There are places you can teleport where you want, etc. but for now I don't see this changing anytime soon. 
 

Wavelength

MSD Strong
Global Mod
Joined
Jul 22, 2014
Messages
5,527
Reaction score
4,984
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMVXA
Overworld maps can still be found in lots of games and that's good because overworld maps can be a lot of fun to run around.
 

Caitlin

\(=^o^=)/ Kitten shall rule the world!!!
Veteran
Joined
May 6, 2012
Messages
912
Reaction score
2,094
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMMV
No, the world map is NOT a thing of the past and heck, you still see them in a great deal of RPGs.  However, the big difference is the size of that world map.  You have Ni No Kuni style of world map, Dragon Quest using that style and then, you have world maps where you're walking around the world... Take Final Fantasy I world map and just imagine yourself walking the world instead of overhead.  If you're using an engine like RPG maker, it will depend on the sort of game that you're making. I am creating a game called Cat and Dog, has a city map and my other game, a horror game doesn't have a world map at all.  Honestly, a world map is a way of making the world seem much larger and you can add places you can discover and explore much easier than if you don't have to create every map.  I try to keep an open mind and look to the story, settling of my story and determine what it needs to make it an awesome game.  Heck, if you had a game where you explored the sewers, dungeons and you explored a huge city above you, too.  What would you "World Map" be?  The city, of course.  At least, if you chose to look at it that way. 
 

The Art of Gaming

Owner of the Green Tunic in Dreamland
Veteran
Joined
Dec 25, 2014
Messages
88
Reaction score
31
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
While I don't love world maps, I don't think that they should be phased out. They make things a lot simpler in my opinion and save the player from a lot of confused wandering.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Gubbey

Villager
Member
Joined
Jun 3, 2016
Messages
11
Reaction score
4
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
Overworlds can help convey a sense of vastness without making the player trudge through huge expanses of empty space, or filling the way with dungeons that you may or may not have to backtrack through. They are especially useful in 2D top-down RPGs like what's standard in the software, since they don't have the advantage of a first-person or third-person perspective of being able to see miles around.


Of course, like any design element, world maps can have their pitfalls, like atrocious random encounter rates or filling it with empty space anyway. But I despise random encounters anyway and I think one should just only make their world map as large as it needs to be.
 

ACE RyanAnayaMc

New to Game Making
Veteran
Joined
Jul 8, 2013
Messages
48
Reaction score
1
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
I would definitely say that there should be a way to quickly travel around the game world. The way you implement it is up to you. An overworld is a possibility. It just gets boring if you go through the whole quest but then need to backtrack through 4398538 different stages. A bit exaggerated, I know, but seriously. You need some way to travel around.
 

trouble time

Victorious
Veteran
Joined
Jan 2, 2014
Messages
790
Reaction score
601
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
N/A
I'd say no, I am sick and tired of quick travel lists, nearly every other game on the vita is a dungeon crawler with some list of locations and I never feel like I'm going anywhere in those games and while I do like them, I'm tired of it now. I really want world maps at this point.
 

LaFlibuste

Veteran
Veteran
Joined
Jun 28, 2015
Messages
382
Reaction score
315
First Language
French
Primarily Uses
I know I've said this plenty in other threads on here already, but I personally think they make the world look empty. What's up with the kingdom of Baron in FFIV being an international superpower, it's territory comprising acres after acres of abandonned, monster-filled fields, a tiny capital that has about a half dozen houses and a castle? I do get the idea behind world maps: they give a sense of vastness, etc. Also, not everywhere piece of land should be occupied, think about the Sahara, african savanahs, siberian toundra, the rain forest or mongolian steppes, for instance. But there's a point where there's too much empty.

Although writing this, I've had an idea for a compromise: maybe world maps could be detailed a bit more, filled with unexplorable stuff to make the world feel more inhabited: fields of various colours with tiny scarecrows and/or barns, roads, unexplorable villages/houses, etc. It might also helps if big cities occupied more than a single tile. To add to the sense of vastness, maybe replace the player's sprite with tiny ones like in Chrono Trigger when on the overworld. And surely there could be tons on other ideas to be had.


So are worlds maps a thing of the past that should be avoided at all costs? I don't think so. I do think, however, that the traditional world map style is and that developers should put in some effort towards making them more interesting. Enough with the hundreds of tiles of meaningless forest or empty green fields already.
 

Feenick

Veteran
Veteran
Joined
Jun 1, 2016
Messages
34
Reaction score
45
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
There's definitely a place for both the inclusion and omission of an overworld. As with all other features of a game, it comes down to the question of whether or not a game would actually benefit from it, either mechanically or in terms of its story.


SMT IV has an interesting use of both the usual overworld and a more-menu driven location selection: while going between locations in Mikado is done through a menu, once you get down to Tokyo you have to navigate it as if it was a more traditional world map. Mikado's navigation is menu-driven as much of it is peaceful and presumably well-known by the player; as such, there's no reason to have any chance of getting lost there. Tokyo, however, is new to the main character, and moreover is a demon-infested labyrinth of streets, rivers, and neighborhoods blasted to desert; as such, to have menu-driven navigation there really wouldn't be fitting. Tokyo is also pretty huge, even if SMT IV only focuses on a compressed version of it, so by keeping a somewhat zoomed-out view of it and only zooming in to the more important locations it keeps going between places sane.


There's also the aspect of freedom of movement [without falling into the trap of being so large a player will get lost and get bored] that a well-designed overworld can bring. SMT IV's overworld, especially later on in the game, is a bit of a pain to navigate, but the area you start out in is relatively easy to navigate while still being fairly open for exploration. This openness is key: a good chunk of the first part of the game is spent going through dungeon areas and caverns, and is capped by a pair of fairly difficult bosses, so having the opportunity to explore in more than one direction provides a good antithesis to how the game's progressed up to that point.


The heavy focus on cities in the SMT games doesn't necessarily mean what they offer is incompatible with more traditional overworlds, but they do all seem to offer a lot more granularity and detail than most other ones I've seen; perhaps that's why I have a fondness for them? 
 

Anthony Xue

Ancient Architect
Veteran
Joined
May 9, 2016
Messages
94
Reaction score
96
First Language
German
Primarily Uses
Well, the industry got rid of an overworld when they got the resources to lay it out completely, thereby removing the need for an abstract level. If you have the time to completely map out a continent in detail, more power to you.


Btw, I think we had this exact discussion just a few weeks ago, with a lot of valuable contributions:




...and in case of tl;dr I'll just again include the link which shows that there are many ways to implement an overworld, so it really helps to make some thoughts about what kind of game experience you want to offer the player.


http://ancient-architects.com/files/Ancient%20Architects%20-%20On%20Overland%20Travel.pdf
 

Dr. Delibird

Also known as HRforges
Veteran
Joined
May 16, 2014
Messages
280
Reaction score
169
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMMZ
How you go abouts your players moving around in your world should be heavily influenced by the mechanics and features you wish to implement. There is no use in doing the more linear style mapping that you can't/don't go back to and say that you want a bunch of secret passage ways and stuff because players will jipped if they learn that they missed a bunch of content in areas they cannot revisit. That isn't to say all areas should be revisitable but those that are not should not have hidden away content, easter eggs may be an exception. If your story, machanics, systems and other such features feel and work better with an overworld then give your game an overworld. A lot of game design comes down to "does it feel right?", if it does not it will be a jarring experience and players reactions will reflect that. On the flip side if it feels right then your players enjoy your game a bunch more because of that.
 

Niten Ichi Ryu

Grey Lords Emissary
Veteran
Joined
Jul 27, 2012
Messages
1,321
Reaction score
1,238
First Language
French
Primarily Uses
RMMV
I'm going for a dragon age/pillars of eternity travel system.


a large map as a picture, that you access when leaving areas, and locations a clickable icons that you unlocks as the story goes.


I'm not overly fond of the old school over world, but I guess if it was done with effort and lots of tiles variety why not. It shouldn't look as Canada in Stick of truth.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

TNID

Villager
Member
Joined
Jun 2, 2016
Messages
28
Reaction score
0
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
overworld if made correctly gives player the ability to break away from a story driven linear tunnel design


Edit: options still exist to break free of the linear mold without focusing on overworld, secret of mana and dark souls for example, but those tend to be action oriented and you can run by fights choosing not to engage. FFX is a good example of removing the overworld though it remained very tunnel driven.


In my experience playing with an overworld helps maintain a sense of direction while without overworld it is more demanding of the player's memory. Please keep that in mind when choosing linear vs open exploration especially if you have random battles.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Users Who Are Viewing This Thread (Users: 0, Guests: 1)

Latest Threads

Latest Profile Posts

annnnd after 2 days lol... and I still feel I need to work out a few kinks

Only 99 more battlers to go :dizzy:
Stream will be live shortly with some game development! Feel free to drop by!
it took soooo long to get character assist to work right in my game. like certain fighting games, a team mate can hop in, do an attack, then leave. it works since these are all one on one fights (usually)

Forum statistics

Threads
104,260
Messages
1,005,034
Members
135,771
Latest member
Yeah_That_1
Top